It has been a year now since I have started to learn French seriously and it feels so good to realize how far I have come in this one year, given all the things I have heard about the difficulties of learning French as an English speaker. How many people have told me that it is a very difficult and a frustrating language to learn! But my experience with French has been totally opposite to these common perceptions: I found French quite easy to learn and quite enjoyable as well. I have found French language to be much more logical than English and I found it to be so similar to English in so many ways.
Before you write me off as a person with a language gene, let me tell you that I have tried to learn Hindi about 5 years back and failed miserably, even though I am an Indian and Hindi is similar to my mother tongue Tamil. What made the difference this time are 2 factors: excellent teachers/courses and an approach to study the language without making mastering the grammar as the primary goal.
In this series of posts starting with this post, I will talk about whether I have achieved the goals I have set for myself last year, what courses I have taken, how much time/effort I have put into studying French, what routines/habits I have practiced and what are my plans to improve my French further. Each post will focus on one topic. Voila! Here is the first post in this series…
My Goals Vs Achievement
In my first post on this blog last year, I have talked about my goals for 2012. I have set 3 goals and here is how I have fared against them:
Goal 1: Be able to speak fluently with locals
Update: Fortunately or unfortunately I have not defined what fluency means for me. My dream at that time was to engage in conversations with native speakers on any topic of interest to me. My aim in learning the language was to talk to more people who I meet here in Geneva and to have the pleasure of being able to communicate to them in French.
I used to be frustrated that I can’t even get basic things done here without knowing the language. I could not ask for help on the road if I want to find which bus/tram to take. I could not ask for help in supermarkets to find the items I wanted to buy. I could not talk to my son’s teachers to understand how he is doing. Each time I got any official correspondence in French, I had to find someone to translate it for me. If someone called me who can’t talk English, I had to ask him to call me back to give me the time to find a native speaker to help me. Today, none of these issues exist. Hence, to a large extent, I have achieved my goal. I am able to take part in most conversations in French without feeling lost and I am able to engage with native speakers to get my day-to-day work done. I have tasted the real joy of being able to communicate with non-English speakers in various walks of life using French. As a family, we are able to understand the culture better and we are able to integrate better with the locals.
However, there are still certain situations where I am not comfortable like calling my real estate agent to complain about a problem in my house which involves a lot of specific vocabulary. If I listen to two native speakers talking between themselves on a topic that is not related to me, I still struggle to follow. I still can’t understand full-length French movies – I did watch a few children movies. Though I was able to follow the movie and decipher many sentences, I still need a lot more listening practice to French spoken at full-speed and with elision/contraction. I still have not gotten over my hesitation to talk French when English-speakers are around
Goal 2: Be able to read and understand the taxation handbook from the Geneva tax department
Update: I have just tried to read through the taxation handbook for 2013. I have read a few pages and except for a few technical words, I understood most of what I have read and it felt easy to read, even though the writing style was stiff and formal, like any other government document in English. I have been trying my hand at reading every official communication that I get from various government departments and I have even helped my English-speaking colleagues to translate their letters. So, I have a bit of practice in reading these kinds of writings. So, I think I reached my goal here.
Goal 3: Pass the A1 level of French proficiency exam.
Update: As I have mentioned in my last progress report, I have been assessed at B1 level, which is 2 levels more than what I have aimed for last year. Though I have not taken the official DELF test, I feel confident that I can pass at least A2 level test if I take it now. I plan to take a real DELF test for B2 level once I reach that level, hopefully within this year.
I honestly did not aim to master the grammar of the language and it was a big surprise for me when I realized that I have actually mastered a lot of the difficult French grammar topics without even realizing it. The teacher from University of Geneva who interviewed me was surprised at my talking and writing French and even called another teacher to tell her that I have reached this level of proficiency just by studying on my own. They were discussing whether they should put me directly in the advanced level or not and finally they decided that I can attend the advanced class directly. She had an assessment sheet that she was filling up as she was interviewing me that listed various grammar topics and a column to put the teacher’s assessment. When I saw that she was giving me a tick-mark in most of them, it dawned on me that I am not a zero at French grammar. It is so ironical that I ended up mastering a lot of Grammar without studying a single grammar book – To be honest, I still have to read a real grammar book and see how much I have mastered. Also, I am starting a French course today with the University of Geneva for students at B1 level – So, I will get a real picture of where I am once I attend a few sessions
Please leave a comment to let me know what you think of my progress. If you have tried to learn French anytime in the past, please share what has and has not worked for you. If you are a French speaker who has interacted with me in any way, please post a few words about my progress as you have seen it so that I get some feedback and others who read this blog might be encouraged.
Tagged: Progress Report - French